How does the order to shelter at home apply to the almost 59,000 people on the streets of Los Angeles County who don't have homes?
For those on skid row, there is no safer at home option as doors close around the world to ward off this virus. Those without doors are the most vulnerable and many turn to the Midnight Mission, the doors of which remain open and of service, as they have for a hundred years.
Spectrum News 1 anchor Giselle Fernandez had a candid conversation on the state of care for the homeless amid the coronavirus pandemic with Georgia Berkovich, director of public affairs at the Midnight Mission.
Berkovich addressed the specific precautions the mission is taking.
“We are obviously following all of the protocols set forth by the CDC,” Berkovich said. “All of our program participants, staff, everybody on the premises must be wearing a mask. Temperatures are taken every day.”
Berkovich, who was once homeless herself, spoke to the unique circumstances people experiencing homelessness face in coping with the pandemic.
“Our homeless community is more disconnected than ever. They aren't able to charge their cell phones where they used to be able to, they're not able to access wi-fi. They're not able to congregate over a meal here at the Midnight Mission or with art and music," said Berkovich.
Berkovich also addressed the state of skid row in coping with coronavirus.
“You know, we have a few of our clients who we think would be most vulnerable who are now in the room key projects. So they're in different motel rooms that have been made available,” she said. "There are hand-washing stations and hygiene stations throughout skid row. Social distancing is a hard thing to do down here."
While the number of confirmed cases among people experiencing homelessness remains relatively low, Berkovich said the population on skid row at large remains uniquely vulnerable and it was important to protect that population.
“We have volunteers who really want to be involved but they can't come in. Not for necessarily their protection, but for ours," she said. "There were only a few cases in skid row right now and we really believe that if it comes to skid row, it's going to come from without, not from within.”
In terms of what needs to be done to protect the homeless from the coronavirus, Berkovich's answers were very much in line with what needs to be done to protect the homeless in general.
"What is the answer? I think it's all of us doing what we do, but doing more," she said. "You know, we need every intervention that there is. We need shelters, we need transitional housing, we need all of these different interventions. We just need more because the reasons people are homeless are so varied."